Best 12 Diverse Artists to Teach in your Art Classroom
Like many art teachers, growing up, art class was always my favorite part about school. I loved creating art, but I also loved looking at art. I remember being fascinated by Van Gogh and Degas. I thought Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings were the coolest and I loved the bright colors in Andy Warhol’s prints.
I learned a lot of things looking at art in art class: different artistic styles, new mediums I hadn’t heard of, fascinating stories behind each work of art. But I also learned something that I didn’t fully realize until I was older: that professional artists didn’t look anything like me. As a young latina student, I learned from an early age that “real artists” were almost always white men. Of course, my art teachers never explicitly said this; but by leaving diverse artists out of our curriculum, I didn’t think that someone like me could be a “real artist.”
By choosing to include artists of different races, genders, and ethnicities in our curriculum, we show our students that artists can look like anyone. We give our Black, Hispanic, Asian and indigenous students an opportunity to see themselves as artists and tell them that everyone can be an artist. By including diverse artists in our curriculum we not only provide diverse role models for our students, but we also enrich our curriculum with artists working in a variety of methods, mediums, and styles.
Don’t know where to begin diversifying your curriculum? Check out these twelve diverse artists to teach in your art classroom:
1. Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley is a Black painter who was born in Los Angeles, California. His father is from Nigeria and his mother is African American. He is most well-known for his portraits of Black people against colorful and patterned backgrounds. In 2017, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Barack Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Wiley is inspired by European Old Master portraiture, and has the subjects of his paintings pose in similar poses to Old Master style portraiture.
Wiley combines this style of portraiture with inspiration from French Rococo design, African Textiles, Islamic Architecture and Urban Hip-Hop. Wiley’s fresh take on an old style of portraiture is meant to include Black people in the narrative, who were left out of traditional European paintings. Many of Wiley’s portraits are of people Wiley met while walking around his neighborhood in New York and Los Angeles. He would ask the subjects of his paintings to assume the poses in Old Master portraits and paint them in these poses while wearing their street clothes.
Many of the poses Wiley chooses exude power and are reminiscent of portraits of European royalty. In doing so, Wiley makes a statement by placing the Black members of his neighborhood in a position of power. Click for the FREE art lesson plan. Find out more about Kehinde at: kehindewiley.com
2. Alma Woodsey Thomas
Alma Woodsey Thomas was a Black expressionist artist and art teacher who taught art in D.C. public schools. Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia and later became the first graduate from Howard University’s Fine Arts program. Thomas is best known for her love of color and pattern, most notably in stripes coined “Alma’s Stripes.” She was inspired by the Abstract Expressionist movement, Byzantine Mosaics, and pointillism. Thomas became the first African American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She also became the first African American woman whose artwork was placed on view in the White House in 2015. Find out more at: https://nmwa.org/art/artists/alma-woodsey-thomas/
3. Tyeb Mehta
Tyeb Mehta was an Indian painter, sculptor and filmmaker who was inspired by cubist and expressionist styles of modern art. Mehta was born in Gujart, India, but spent time living in London, New York City, and Mumbai during his life. Mehta is one of the most well known Indian painters and is best known for his use of vibrant colors and shapes. Mehta grew up in a Shiite community in India during a time where violent attacks against Muslims were common. His experience witnessing violence throughout his life has informed the subject of a lot of his work.
The subjects of Mehta’s paintings also often include mythological or supernatural figures. Mehta currently holds the record for the most expensive Indian painting sold at auction when his painting Kali, sold for 10 million Indian rupees in 2005. Mehta is the first contemporary Indian artist whose works have sold for over a million dollars. Find out more at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/tyeb-mehta/
4. Tyree Guyton
Tyree Guyton is a Black artist from Detroit, Michigan. After seeing the street he grew up on, Heidelberg Street on Detroit’s east side, fall to disrepair and be neglected by the city, Guyton decided to use art to rejuvenate his street. At first, Guyton started by painting a few houses on the street with bright, multi-colored polka dots. Over time, the project grew and as Guyton added more art to his street, his community started to take pride in where they lived and even welcomed visitors from near and far to view the artwork on their street.
Guyton worked on the Heidelberg Project with children and neighbors from his street, working together to beautify their community with art. Since the start of the project, Guyton’s Heidelberg project has added an indoor/outdoor museum, artist’s colony, creative arts center, community garden and amphitheater to the neighborhood. Guyton’s Heidelberg Project is recognized around the world as a demonstration of the power of art to create hope and transform communities. Find out more at:
5. Takashi Murakami
Takashi Murakami is a contemporary artist from Japan whose designs can be found on fashion and merchandise all over the world. Murakami was born in Tokyo, Japan, and from a young age he was fascinated by anime which later influenced his artistic work and style. He originally studied to be an animator but eventually transitioned to painting and sculpture.
He considers his style to be “uniquely Japanese” and influenced by Japanese subcultures. His designs have been used by fashion brands such as Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton and has designed album artwork for artists such as Kanye West, J Balvin, and Billie Eilish. His artwork can be found not only in popular culture and fashion, but also in museums all around the world. Find out more at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/takashi-murakami/
6. Angel Otero
Angel Otero is a contemporary painter and mixed media artist from San Juan, Puerto Rico. His work is inspired by abstract expressionism and Spanish baroque painting traditions. Otero’s style combines painting and assemblage techniques and he works with dried paint, resin, silicone, metal, wood, and spray paint often in his work. His thick, layered paintings have a sculptural quality to them and sometimes include gestural figures inspired by his upbringing. Otero’s work can be seen on display at museums all across the world. Find out more at: https://www.artsy.net/artist/angel-otero
7. Jessi Raulet
Jessi Raulet is a Black painter and designer from Indiana who currently lives and works in France. Raulet runs the brand, Etta Vee, with the designs she paints. Etta Vee artwork has been featured on products sold in major retailers around the world such as Target, Amazon, and Wayfair. She is most well known for her brightly colored and vibrant paintings that feature bold brush strokes. She is inspired by tropical settings, colorful fruit and pop culture. She hopes that her paintings inspire joy through the use of color. Find out more at: https://www.ettavee.com/
8. Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama is a contemporary Japanese artist who is most well known for her colorful and playful sculptural installations. She is also a painter, filmmaker, poet and performance artist. Her style is influenced by the abstract impressionism and pop-art styles. She is widely recognized for her vibrant polka dot designs which she brings to life in installations called “Infinity Rooms.” When she was younger, Kusama claimed to have hallucinations and visions, often of polka dots. These hallucinations have influenced the patterns visible in her art work. Kusama has lived in New York and Japan and has had sculptural installations all over the world. Her “Infinity Room” installations have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Find out more at: http://yayoi-kusama.jp/e/information/
9. Marcus Cadman
Marcus Cadman is a Native American painter and mixed media artist of Navajo and Kickapoo heritage. Cadman grew up on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and was introduced to art at a very early age. His father, who was also an artist, taught him to draw while growing up and Cadman knew he wanted to be an artist by the time he was in high school.
Cadman’s work is inspired by elements from the modern world and the tribal world. He uses his work as a medium to depict and chronicle contemporary Native American life. The subject of his work is often informed by his experience growing up between American and Native culture. Cadman uses objects such as old photographs, money, bingo sheets, and pages from the bible in Navajo and English in his mixed media paintings to incorporate elements of the modern world and tribal world. Find out more at: https://www.marcuscadman.com/home
10. El Anatsui
El Anatsui is an African sculptor from Ghana who has become well known for his aluminum sculptures that use repurposed bottle caps. His large scale sculptures use thousands of aluminium bottle caps that are sourced from recycling stations and sewn together using copper wire to create cloth-like flexible sculptures. His work is inspired by the African tradition of textiles, and many of his sculptures are reminiscent of Kente cloth, which is a textile native to Ghana. By using recycled materials, Anatsui used his artwork to draw attention to consumption, waste and the environment. Anatsui’s artwork has been displayed in museums and art shows all around the world. Find out more at: https://art21.org/artist/el-anatsui/
11. Victoria Villasana
Victoria Villasana is a textile artist from Guadalajera, Mexico. She is best known for making embroidery patterns on top of images. She became a well known street artist when she began placing her embroidered images in the streets of London. Many of Villasana’s artworks engage in themes of masculinity and femininity. Her raw and brightly colored textile work is inspired by her cultural heritage. Villasana’s work is often activist and she used her street art to call for justice and make political statements. Find out more at: https://victoriavillasana.com/
12. Helen Zughaib
Helen Zughaib is a painter and multimedia artist who is from Beruit, Lebanon. Zughaib’s family fled Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War and moved to Europe. This experience informs her work, which is about cultural identity, family and the displacement of being a refugee. Many of her paintings are based on Lebanese folk tales and family history and show scenes of migration and displacement. Zughaib uses bright colors and patterns in her paintings that are influenced by traditional Middle Eastern design. Her work can be seen all around the world, including on display at The White House and the Library of Congress. Find out more at: http://www.hzughaib.com/